90. HUMAN- You Deserve Respect when Seeking Help for Mental Illness
One thing that we can agree on is that we are all human. Humans that have successes and failures, have dreams, and make mistakes. Sometimes we win the day or have heartbreaking devastations. We only get one life, and it is completely up to us how we live it. Too often I’ve been caught up in the little details of life, things that don’t matter in the long run.
At this time last year, I was living in Utah. Basically, living in my bedroom due to the pandemic that we didn’t know that much about. It was terrifying. I was working phones for my job, going to college in my room and I felt myself slowly slipping into the mental darkness of depression- something I had worked very hard of to stay out of. I was alone. I had a couple of roommates, but we all tried to social distance as they both worked in the medical field. I was just about to graduate from college, but my college shut down all graduation plans and had decided to do nothing except send out nice gradation packages with all the commencement speeches written out. It was a lovely thought as were the sympathies of a cancelled graduation.
All in all. Things were getting darker and darker in my head, and I knew that if I didn’t do something quick, I was going to potentially fall backward on the mental staircases I had climbed. Staircases I had climbed over the years for my mental health to get to a point where I could prevent big episodes from happening and keep my mind safe.
This was not always the case. At the beginning of my mental health problems and right after I came home from the mission I served for my church, my mental health and physical health both struggled greatly. I had a lot of migraines and tremors that made it impossible for me to interact with anyone outside of my household (just my parents) really. Often, I felt like I was trapped in a body that had a mind of its own… Which just wanted to sit there because there was no energy in me to do anything.
Together with my parents, we decided that I needed to find a therapist or councilor, who could start working with me to get me mentally well again and to start working out some things. I was on some medication that I needed to get more of or change that I had received from the doctor I had worked with on my mission — but he was in Belgium and was most certainly inaccessible to me in the United States. Therefore, I needed someone to continue my treatment.
I was very shy about talking about my issues when I first returned to the United States. I knew that I needed professional help, but I knew that for me to be successful with treatment, it would need to be someone I could connect with and have a basic understanding of where I was coming from. Someone who might understand that I had physical problems causing the mental health issues and who understood my reasons for being religious and serving a mission.
Those are things that were important to me. If you are shopping for a therapist or councilor — find someone who shares a similar background because I believe that is one of the most important things in making sure you are successful in your mental health goals. It helps you feel safer and more comfortable right off the bat because there is an instant connection. For the most part that is… It isn’t as easy as putting butter on toast to find a great match with a therapist.
When I first started my hunt for a therapist after returning from my mission, it was recommended to me to go through my church. Other people I knew, who had gone that route, and told me that they felt it helped them a lot. I remember not feeling too good about it, just a gut feeling if you will. Turns out that my gut feeling was right.
I think it was one of my parents, who arranged for this councilor to call me to set up a first in person appointment. I know what I looked like — a broken-down missionary, who just got home and who was struggling with adjusting to normal everyday life. But I knew my problems were deeper than that. After working so long with the therapist on my mission, I knew it was more than adjusting to home again. I knew it was deeper than that and I needed someone who would be able to explore this with me.
I remember I was standing in my kitchen when my phone rang. I picked it up and said, “Hello, this is Kajsa.” Just the normal way of answering the phone. I don’t even remember the lady who answered back saying ‘Hello’ or asking about my name — she just said, “Are you stable?” The way she said it was short and a bit hard. I just remember being very taken aback and a bit shocked. In three little words, she made me feel like I wasn’t human and like I was just a rescue puppy picked up from a hideous scene. (Now I am not writing this to put councilors who are a part of my church on blast. I believe that there are some wonderful and very helpful ones. It just didn’t work out for me.)
I don’t remember what I said back since this was years ago- but it was safe to say that I said, “No, thank you” and went somewhere else. I found a wonderful therapist who shared my beliefs and listened to me when I said there was more than just being an unadjusted missionary going on. He is the one who figured out my severe sleep apnea along with other things. He encouraged me to write about everything because writing helped me figure it out and to cope with all my health problems — both mental and physical.
My point is, mental health deserves respect not only from the everyday person, but also your mental health deserves respect from the healthcare professionals that you are working with to get better. You are a living and breathing person, who deserves respect when it comes to taking care of your mental health.
Also, remember. It sometimes takes time and patience to find the right healthcare professionals that will work best for you. Don’t give up until you find them because you deserve to get the help you need to be both physically and mentally healthy.
You are valid and not “less than” because of your struggles.